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If a compound has a proton it can donate it can act as a Bronsted acid. For example, HCO3 - can donate a proton and form CO3 2-. A compound can act as a Bronsted base if it can accept a proton, which it can only do if it has a lone pair of electrons it can donate. For example, HC03- can accept a proton and form H2CO3 due to the lone pair on oxygen.
we can tell from the chemical equation, which are usually given in the problems. If from the left to the right, a reactant loses H+, it is the Bronsted acid. If from the left to the right, a reactant gains H+, it is the Bronsted base.
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